The parents watched as their 9 year old daughter weaved through the opposing players and scored another goal. Everyone in the stands started cheering and their daughter’s teammates crowded around her to celebrate. Later in the game, their daughter collapsed in pain as she grabbed her ankle. The parents ran out of the stands to go see her.
Their daughter had severely sprained her ankle and would have to sit out from playing on her traveling soccer team for the next month. The pediatrician talked with the parents about some ways they could prevent sports-related injuries in the future.
Most children participate in sports and there are a host of benefits in playing them. Children learn about teamwork, keep their bodies fit, and it allows them to gain confidence in their skills. However, injuries can derail these benefits and make children have to sit out for extended periods of time.
Some of the most common sports-related injuries in children include sprains, strains, and fractures. These occur when abnormal stress is placed on tendons, joints, bones and muscles. Fortunately, there are several ways that parents can prevent these sports-related injuries from occurring.
The first way is to take some time off to allow children time to recover. The recommendation is to take at least one day off per week and to take at least one month off per year from a particular sport. If a child exclusively focuses on one sport, her odds of injury greatly increase as the body is more likely to break down from overuse due to the repetitive movements required by the sport.
A second way to prevent injuries is by training well. Children should engage in conditioning exercises that strengthen their muscles for that particular sport. They should also stretch after practices and games to prevent strained muscles.
Coaches and parents need to be aware that children are using correct techniques for their particular sports. Bad technique can put more pressure on vulnerable ankles, knees, wrists, and elbows increasing the likelihood of injury. Time should be spent in practice emphasizing the correct technique so that it becomes a habit.
In practices as well as games, children need to take breaks. Breaks allow the body time to recover from the stresses it has been put under. It also allows the body to cool down and diminish the odds of developing heat-related injuries such as cramping and heat exhaustion. During the breaks, children should have the opportunity to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
When children start to complain of pain while playing a sport, they need to stop. Playing with injuries just increases the odds of additional and more significant injury.
As children start up new sports or get better at familiar ones, parents should look at ways to prevent them from getting injured. Being injury-free allows children to fully enjoy the sport and get all of the benefits that sports have to offer.
This article was published in the Richmond Register daily Friday on April 8, 2016